Saturday, October 18, 2008


No, this isn't directly about the presidential candidates but it is about the election. I have heard multiple discussions about fraud with regards to this election - ACORN, multiple states that have removed names from the voter roles, the on-going legal battle in Ohio.

I'm not a lawyer and don't claim to really understand the law but I heard a lawyer on the radio the other day talking about this issue and he made a distinction that I think is helpful. He said that there are three different issues here, not one: voter registration fraud, voter fraud, and election fraud. They are very different and each have very different possible results.

Voter registration fraud is just that, someone registers who is not eligible to vote. If ACORN workers were involved in fraud, this is it. Say one of them filled out a registration for Micky Mouse, living at the Magic Kingdom. That is voter registration fraud. Nobody has voted and no harm has come to the election process beyond inflating the rolls. The guy interviewed on Fox who said he had registered 72 times was guilty of this.

Voter fraud is when someone shows up at the polling place claiming to be Micky and votes. This is obviously much more serious than registration fraud. Here we have actual possibility of impact on the election. Still, at least on a national level, it is pretty unlikely that you could swing an election with voter fraud. In most cases, it would take an organized effort of tens of thousands of fraudulent votes. Of course, in a very close election, this could be impactful.

Election Fraud is when someone manipulates the system. Thousands of voters are removed from the rolls without proper reasons, voting machines are deliberately rigged to miscount votes, populations are targeted to keep them from voting by whatever means. Election fraud is much more able to change the results of an election.

As we look at the issues swirling around this election many people seem to be confusing these three different issues or conflating them into one. Let's remember they are very different issues with very different potential impacts.


Dave Miller said...

Hey Roy, made this exact point recently.

However I am not sure the nuance will be accepted by those who are determines to find malfeasance by the Dems.

Michael Mahoney said...

Thanks for making the distinction, Roy. There's a lot of rhetoric and sensational headlines surrrounding this story, yet there will be very little actual effect on the election.

There will be harm, though. Many town registrar offices are small-staffed (some even part-time) departments at the bottom of the funding ladder. The additional work to vet out the false records will be overwhelming, and will lead to mistakes.

roy said...

and clearly, all three are illegal.

steph said...

Good distinction, Roy. The only issue I take is that the Acorn people say 'of course we don't promote election fraud and one fraud doesn't lead to the other', but, when pushed, they generally do not support having to show i/d at polling stations! I think everyone should have to do that to prevent election fraud - even if you don't drive, you can get a simple i/d from DMV. If you care enough to show up and vote, you can line up and get an i/d - the only thing I think should be pushed is free i/ds for people under a certain income. Steph :)